There’s a rather full mailbag this week after a one-week hiatus. The letters about the Heroes vs. Heels Game still are trickling in. Other topics, like the All-Star Game ballot, Chad LaRose’s rising star in Carolina, the Center Ice package and even Led Zeppelin make appearances. So, let’s get to the Penalty Box. Remember, if you too want to take residence in the Penalty Box, send your comments, complaints or criticisms to firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember to include your name and hometown. CTN looks forward to hearing from you all.
Good on ya for including Rod Brind'Amour on your “Heavenly Heroes” list. If ever a guy deserved it, he does. It's nice to see the guy finally getting the props that are proportional to his accomplishments. It seems that Carolina has a host of players in its history (both here and in Hartford) that largely go unnoticed until somebody suddenly realizes; "Hey! Look at this guy!" Ronnie Francis is probably the most notable example. Has a guy ever done the things Ronnie did in his career more quietly? In any sport? I doubt it. But, there's another up-and-coming under-hero in the making down here in the Southland – Chad LaRose. He's been a fan favorite ever since he's been here, but now that he's on a line with Brind'Amour and Justin Williams, we're starting to see what he's really made of. You asked if anybody ever loved the game more than Lucky Luc (Robitaille). I think maybe LaRose is your guy. Yeah, on a team that's averaging nearly four goals a game, it's easy to miss a guy like Rosie. When you're surrounded by Brind'Amours and Staals and Williamses and Stillmans and Cullens and – you get the idea – it's easy to escape notice. But we love him. And the major reason for that popularity is that while a Staal or a Crosby or an Ovechkin only comes along once in a great while, any kid that laces up skates in Mites can become a Chad LaRose. All he has to do is bring it all every night and leave it there when the game's over. Work hard, do what the coach tells you, and you can be Chad LaRose. He's Everyman on Bauers. And, playing on a line with a work-a-holic like Brindy only is going to amplify that work ethic. You heard it here first – the next entry into the Blue Collar Hall of Fame will wear No. 59 in red. Bank on it.
-- James Bengel, Raleigh, NC
James, thanks for the note. CTN is assuming you are a new convert to the weekly column here because Rod Brind’Amour has been the poster boy for what CTN is all about – passion, determination, hard work and a love of the game – from the beginning. You don’t have to be flashy or loud to get a shout out from CTN, just genuine. And, Brind’Amour is all of those things and more. You also don’t have to preach to CTN about the merits of Chad LaRose. CTN has been around the Hurricanes a lot in the past few years and always has been drawn to LaRose, who plays the game with the quiet determination that CTN finds so attractive. In fact, LaRose reminds me a lot of another heart-and soul Hurricane – one Kevyn Adams. They play the game in that same straight-ahead style and are class acts on and off the ice. It will be interesting to see if LaRose stays in his new role because he was a big-time scorer in junior hockey. If he can continue to play with skilled players, his scoring skills should quickly come to the fore yet again.
Your Heroes vs. Heels game would be an amazing game to watch. Seeing a healthy Bobby Orr skating around the ice alone would be a sight to see. I’m glad to see Claude Lemieux made the cut for the Heels because he really was underrated as a great talent to go along with being the annoying pest that he was to most teams. Being a fan of goaltenders, I believe the ones you have chosen are great – except how could Terry Sawchuk not make this team? I would personally rather see him there over Roy (though both are great). I have a signed photo from Cheevers of his iconic mask, and to this day it still scares me when staring at it – which is why it’s not in my bedroom. One question though: How can you include Reg Dunlop and not have the Hansons on a team as well? It’s just a shame, especially since it would be the old-time hockey they love to play.
-- Jordan O’Brien, Toronto
Jordan, great to hear from you, as always. You are right, it would be amazing to see No. 4 glide effortlessly up and down the pond, deking and juking some of the game’s greats along the way. That alone would be enough to bring a tear to CTN’s eye in the afterlife. You also are right about Lemieux. He was a pain in the butt to play against, but I have seen few players deliver in the clutch as often – or as dramatically – as Claude. As for Sawchuk, CTN never really had the privilege of seeing him play and does not have the same attachment as he does to the goalies on the list. It is as simple as that. Finally, who wouldn’t want to see the Hansons doing their act in heaven? But CTN could not justify sacrificing three roster spots to get them onto the team. Maybe we could cheat a little and call the Hansons healthy scratches, so they would at least be on hand for the game.
I’m writing this week about one Jeremy Roenick. I’ve heard lots of people talk about Roenick’s big mouth and how funny it is that he promised to keep quiet this season. Are there any particularly damning tales of his arrogance? Because all I’ve seen of him this season is a man who wants to play, who appreciates the opportunity to skate with this Sharks team, and who is in San Jose to provide some leadership and inspiration to our younger, inexperienced players (which we sorely need!). I watched him score his 500th goal, and his absolute grace and gratitude brought me to tears. He seems like an incredible person to me, and an incredible player. In my search to find out why everyone is in a flap about his big mouth, I discovered that some in cyberland think J.R. is washed up and that the Sharks shouldn’t have picked him up. All I can say is I am so happy to have him on my team and in my city! I look forward to cheering him on the rest of the season!
P.S. thanks for those book recommendations!
Sydney, CTN is glad you enjoyed the reading list. When you finish that list, CTN probably can come up with a few more books to pass the time, as well. As for J.R., he has had a reputation of being brash and colorful throughout his career. He never has been shy about voicing his opinions about opposing players and the game in general. In the conservative world of pro hockey where players prefer to stay out of the individual limelight as much as possible, Roenick’s attitude always has stood out as one of the defining aspects of his game. A lot of fans don’t like it because they believe that hockey players should not be so colorful. But the game needs characters like J.R. to help sell the game to casual fans. His forthrightness and willingness to wear the black hat in opposing cities only can be construed as a positive in CTN’s view. But it must be said that the declining production that J.R. has endured in recent years has made it easier for critics to attack him as a style-above-substance guy. But that is simply not the case this year. It appears Roenick has rediscovered his all-consuming passion for the game in San Jose. He seems to understand that he has a good chance – and, perhaps, his last chance – to win the Stanley Cup with the Sharks. As a result, he has embraced the opportunity with the class and dignity it deserves and you alluded to. Enjoy the show out in San Jose, Sydney, it should be a good one all year.
Congratulations on your new arrival!!! Just read the latest CTN. Thank God you have your son, you will need all the backup you can get. Enjoy!! Good luck with them Led Zep tickets, as well.
-- John Rogers
John, thanks for the kind words. Sorry I did not get a chance to answer your awesome e-mail from a couple of weeks back. It kind of got lost in the shuffle with all the things that were going on at the time. CTN apologizes profusely. With the arrival of the wee little gal two weeks ago, the odds are now even in the CTN household. CTN and his son on one side and Mrs. CTN and the newest addition on the other side. So things will remain hopelessly deadlocked at the CTN household. Maybe CTN can hire the retiring Mick McGeough to be the live-in arbitrator at Casa CTN. Lastly, I think the Zep tickets are nothing but a pipe dream for CTN. One trip to London this year is the proper limit agreed to by CTN and his missus.
***What on earth is Ray Emery doing on the All-Star Ballot? Did they even look at the stats this season? Martin Gerber, who it looks like Ray Emery will be backing up this season, LEADS THE LEAGUE in wins! And Brind'Amour is missing? Isn't he in the top five in the NHL in points right now? Is this ballot some sort of joke? Because it would be funny if it wasn't so sad.
-- Jeff, Greensboro, N.C.
***Hey there. I am a hockey fan living in China and enjoy reading or watching anything hockey. I am interested in subscribing to an online network in order to satisfy my NHL Hockey jones. Which one would you recommend? NHL Center Ice? NHL Network? Are there any Canadian networks I can subscribe to that can provide good coverage for a decent price? The most important aspect of this is: Which networks provide service for mainland China? Not Hong Kong but the mainland. Any help would be much appreciated. A couple of quick thoughts about changes for the NHL:
1. Bring back wooden sticks.
2. Heavy fines and suspensions for ANY head shot or hit from behind.
3. Penalties for full two minutes no matter how many goals are scored.
4. No points for OT or SO losses (do this and the hockey will be much more passionate and exciting. Teams always will play to win because if they don't they get squat)
5. Repeal instigator rule.
IMHO these five changes are needed right now. Thanks for your time.
-- Raymond, Shenzhen, China
Raymond, great to hear from a hockey fan in China. As for your question, CTN strongly would recommend the online version of Center Ice available for purchase. You can find all the details here – http://www.nhl.com/nhlhq/centerice_online.html. CTN has this on his home computer and is amazed at the quality of the video stream and also loves the four-screen capability that allows for the simultaneous viewing of four games at once. That is CTN’s suggestion and CTN does not believe you will be disappointed. As for your suggestions about the game, they all are solid. The game would be better with wooden sticks, but that is not going to happen. It is extremely hard to reverse technology once it is introduced, so composite sticks are here to stay. As for head shots and hits from behind, it should be clear through the League’s actions in the first few weeks that these transgressions are not being tolerated. The serving of a penalty for the full two minutes has been discussed repeatedly and will be again. In CTN’s personal opinion, the current system works fine, but CTN does understand the other arguments. The no-point argument is another that has made the rounds, but has yet to gain the required traction. CTN personally believes that if a team is equal to another for the proscribed 60 minutes, said team should get some form of reward for that effort. To argue that the elimination of that point would make games more passionate and exciting is a disservice to the players, who want to win – no matter the circumstances. As for the instigator rule, that is another issue that has enjoyed healthy debate in the last few years. CTN believes its time may have come and gone and that it should be stricken from the rule book, but that is because CTN prefers old-time hockey. The instigator rule served a very important purpose at one point and its removal should be considered carefully. Perhaps its removal should be tested at the AHL level for a year to see what kind of impact its absence will have on the style of play.